The 5 Trends That Really Matter for Marketers in 2015

There have been countless year-end recaps and forward-looking lists of predictions for marketers over the past few weeks. Most herald 2015 as “the year of mobile” (Didn’t we say that in 2014? And in 2013?), or talk about needing a content strategy for each new social platform. Many say having a beacon strategy is imperative, while others champion the rise of augmented reality, citing Facebook’s Oculus acquisition as the beginning of a new era.

Let’s take a breath.

Augmented reality, for example, is a real opportunity. It continued to command attention on the floors at CES, and many large brands plan to start experimenting with it this year. But the reality is that most marketers don’t have the budget to take advantage of augmented reality at present, and they have more pressing concerns to think about in 2015. Let’s cut the hype.

Here are five trends for 2015 that really warrant your attention — along with resolutions that will help you take advantage of each:

1. Go Programmatic

There is simply no longer any reason for brands to remain dismissive of programmatic buying. Once a tactic for direct response marketers alone, more than half of the $15 billion projected U.S. digital display spend in 2015 is expected to be spent programmatically, including a large chunk from brands seeking awareness and audience discovery in addition to conversions. Many are calling 2015 “The Year of Programmatic Branding,” and I tend to agree.

As brand dollars move into the programmatic space, ad technology companies, ad networks, and exchanges will develop new ways to find audiences (e.g., using CRM or place visit data as a data source), and define new metrics for success. These innovations will be available to brands of all sizes, making programmatic buying more powerful and effective for everyone.

Resolution: Don’t stop doing takeovers or custom sponsorships to build your brand, but do start using machine learning to find and engage your audience. But when you do…

2. Demand Viewability – by Humans

Google estimated that a full 56.1 percent of ad impressions aren’t seen. That’s a shocking statistic. The ANA and White Ops reported that 23 percent of video impressions and more than half of third-party-sourced pageviews are bots, not humans – and this, after the organizations alerted the fraudsters to the time frame when they would be conducting their baseline research!

As White Ops chief executive (CEO) Michael Tiffany has said, ad fraud is “outright criminal theft” that will cost advertisers $6.3 billion globally this year. It will only stop if marketers insist upon it.

Resolution: Ask every potential media partner what checks they have in place against fraud and to ensure viewability. Are they working with third parties like Integral Ad Science, White Ops, DoubleVerify, or Pixalate to verify your ads are shown to humans on the correct URLs? If not, why not?

3. Close the Loop on Cross-Channel Campaigns

Throughout 2014, we saw many cross-channel players vying for the highest device-matching accuracy percentage. It reminded me of how years ago, large ad networks would fight to claim the highest reach percentage – even though the inventory was set up in such a way that no single advertiser would have access to the full potential audience!

The reality is, each player matches devices a bit differently, and a few are pretty darn good at it, but accuracy percentages themselves don’t really tell the full story.

In 2015, I believe a handful of companies will crack the code on cross-channel attribution, demonstrating the return on investment (ROI) of a mobile ad on a desktop or offline conversion, and vice versa. In fact, many companies are already far down this path.

Resolution: As you plan your cross-channel campaigns this year, ensure you set up cross-channel attribution to go along with it.

4. Pick a Marketing Automation Software – and Stick With It

The past 18 months saw loads of consolidation: IBM bought Silverpop, Oracle acquired Eloqua, and Salesforce scooped up ExactTarget and Pardot. Each acquisition represented a step toward creating the ballyhooed “one-stop-shop” for marketers. While each marketing automation offering has its strengths and weaknesses, the reality is that most are sufficient for the average marketer’s needs. The key is to pick one, set it up to support your particular business goals, and stick with it.

Managing all your marketing initiatives through a single platform will provide an accurate reading of which initiatives work and which don’t. At a bare minimum, these tools can manage and optimize nurture funnels for each of your prospect segments, and handle communications for existing customers to grow loyalty and evangelism.

Resolution: Make 2015 the year you invest in marketing automation software — and spend the time to set it up properly so you get the most out of it!

5. First Goal, Then Format

“Native” was no doubt the buzzword of 2014. The industry grew 47 percent last year alone, as brands scrambled to partner with ShareThrough, HuffPost, BuzzFeed, and others to churn out content to engage readers across the Web.

This year, I encourage marketers to start their content marketing campaigns the way they would any other type of campaign: “Who is my audience and what is my goal?” Let your goals guide your channel, format, and content — not the other way around.

Resolution: Don’t set out to create a Twitter strategy, a LinkedIn strategy, a Facebook strategy, or a Snapchat strategy. Instead, start with a messaging agenda tied to your business goals that can infuse and inform what you post to each relevant channel.

Have other resolutions for 2015? Think I pulled punches regarding any other “too-hyped” trends? Tweet them @kristinkovner for inclusion in a future column.

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